LONDON (Reuters) - Stoke City’s 10-year stay in the Premier League ended on Saturday following a 2-1 home defeat by Crystal Palace in a dramatic penultimate round of matches.
Yet never-say-die West Bromwich Albion kept their hopes alive of pulling off one of the great escapes with a last-gasp 1-0 win over top-four aristocrats Tottenham Hotspur.
West Brom took their wholly unlikely unbeaten run under caretaker manager Darren Moore to five matches with a stoppage-time winner from Jake Livermore.
Then the Baggies enjoyed yet another incredible reprieve when a Southampton victory at Everton in the late game, which would have confirmed their relegation, was prevented by a 96th minute equalizer for the home side in a 1-1 draw.
Though Southampton were left fuming that the goal had been scored after the allotted four minutes of added time, the point still moved the Saints out of the drop zone on goal difference ahead of Swansea City, who lost 1-0 at Bournemouth.
It leaves the battle for survival in the final week even more fascinating, with Swansea hosting Southampton in a critical match on Tuesday.
West Brom jumped on to 31 points, leapfrogging doomed Stoke on 30, with both sides having one game left in the final week while Southampton and Swansea are both on 33 with two games left.
At the other end of the table, Tottenham’s defeat left them fourth on 71 points and gave Chelsea new hope that they might steal the fourth Champions league spot if they can move onto 69 points by beating Liverpool at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.
Burnley fans were left celebrating too as Everton’s draw ensured the seventh-placed Clarets will be playing in the Europa League next season, the first time they have been in European competition since the 1966-67 Inter-Cities Fairs Cup.
The day began with Stoke’s faint hopes were briefly revived in the early kickoff as Xherdan Shaqiri’s deflected free kick just before halftime put them ahead against Palace.
Yet Roy Hodgson’s resurgent side, dominant after the break as Stoke were gripped by nervy caution, equalized after a sharp counter-attack through James McArthur before a Ryan Shawcross mistake let in Patrick van Aanholt for the 86th-minute winner.
Despite overseeing a 13-match winless streak, Stoke’s worst run in a top-tier season for 34 years, manager Paul Lambert saluted the effort of his players.
“This club has to bounce right back up,” he said. “The club is too big not to. It will regroup and it’s got the right infra-structure in place to do it.”
Albion’s revival is beggaring belief, even if their chances of the most miraculous survival are still minimal.
Their relegation after weeks of defying the prophets of doom seemed assured as the game against Spurs went into added time but Livermore forced the ball over the line from close range in a manic finish.
Less than three hours later, it seemed their heroics could be all in vain as Nathan Redmond’s header for Southampton at Goodison put the Saints, who later had Maya Yoshida sent off, in sight of the three points that would condemn Albion.
Yet though referee Jon Moss had added on only four minutes, there were just over 95 minutes on the clock when Tom Davies’ strike deflected in off Wesley Hoedt.
“I am the one up here but it is we as a football club — the supporters, staff and officials — and through hard work and commitment that the results are coming,” said Albion’s folk hero Moore.
Both Bournemouth, who beat Swansea with a Ryan Fraser goal, and Crystal Palace ensured their safety for another season and West Ham United look set to join them after a deserved 2-0 victory at Leicester City.
Reporting by Ian Chadband, editing by Ed Osmond and Pritha Sarkar